The relocation project begins by using a tree spade to dig the handpicked, often rare and unusual, camellias from the former Gordy property. Next, each specimen is wrapped in burlap and placed in wire baskets in preparation for a 45-mile trip to the UF Environmental Horticulture Landscape Unit holding area in Gainesville, Fla. Once on site, the camellias are offloaded and placed under irrigation. Finally, the camellias are transported to the Wilmot Botanical Gardens where they are strategically planted in slightly acidic, sandy soils beneath canopies of high pine trees. The team then applies 10 to 25 lbs of Cool Terra to the soil backfill to help improve the soil’s performance characteristics and reduce the mortality rate of the camellias.
Cool Planet, an agricultural technology company focused on soil health solutions, is supporting the Wilmot Botanical Gardens at the University of Florida by donating Cool Terra to support the major transplanting effort of 120 camellias from a private collection. The collection was originally established by Clarence and Lillian Gordy in Ocala, Fla., and features 2,000 plants and 700 varieties of camellias. The 120 specifically selected specimens will now reside at the Wilmot Botanical Gardens for visitors to enjoy. To improve the transplant success rate, the team will utilize Cool Terra, an enhanced biochar that helps improve the health of a plant’s soil root zone.
“Wilmot Botanical Gardens was once a vibrant and popular place on our University’s campus, thriving with over 500 different camellias,” said Dr. Craig Tisher, director of Wilmot Botanical Gardens. “We’re excited to partake in the relocation of this collection and return it to the status it once was.”
“We are excited to support the Wilmot Botanical Gardens by donating our soil health product to help increase the success rate of this project. Cool Terra works to optimize soil and enhance a plant’s root zone which is a critical component of successfully transplanting plants and trees,” said CEO of Cool Planet, Jim Loar. “Through cation and anion exchange capacity, extensive porosity, and high surface area, Cool Terra can increase water and nutrient retention, add structure to the soil, and provide an environment for microbial growth to support the resiliency and beauty of the camellias.”
Considered a symbol of love, passion, excellence, and good luck, camellias have long been adored in the Southeast U.S. since the late 18th century. Originally native to Asia, camellias were brought to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and other southern states where they have thrived. Today, there are over 200 different unique species of Camellia and most display vibrant, symmetrical flowers with soft round petals in red, white, and pink colors. At one time, the Wilmot Botanical Gardens contained more than 500 camellias, but that collection waned to only 80 by 2006. Now, UF is reinvesting in the restoration of the gardens and the camellia collection to enrich the lives of visitors.
To date, approximately 21 camellias have been successfully transplanted from the former Gordy property to the Wilmot Botanical Gardens, with an additional 100 specimens to be transplanted during the next two years.